Life Flight Network and AirLink are both air ambulance companies here in Central Oregon, and both companies and their crews hope you never have to utilize their services. But if you do, you could be in financial ruin if you hold a membership card to just one, and the other is called to the scene.
"We can't guarantee exactly who's going to fly them so, they need both," said Brian Carnithan, director of membership sales for Med-Trans which bought AirLink.
Have both, or risk having to foot a $16,000 to $20,000 bill. That's how much the two companies say on average flight costs. A yearly membership to either air medical company will run you a lot less, as would having both memberships..
"A Life Flight membership costs $60 a year, and that covers your entire household," Holly Love, Life Flight's director of customer service, said Wednesday.
Two, for-profit companies from Texas and Arkansas will take over AirLink on June 1. That will erase any reciprocity agreement between AirLink and Life Flight, the newer arrival in Central Oregon because they'll be affiliated different associations of air medical service providers. One non-profit, one for profit.
"Our understanding, and our 26 years of experience with the membership program, is that we're unable to reciprocate with companies that we don't own," said Carnithan.
AirLink will now be a part of AirMedCare, which is the largest medical membership network in the country. They'll have reciprocity agreements with 160 aircraft in 26 states. But the company only has one location in the Northwest, with two aircraft.
"Your AirLink membership will only provide membership with their one base in Bend and their membership program in the Midwest, but nothing that borders the Oregon border," said Love.
Life Flight, meanwhile, has reciprocity with seven non-profit air ambulance services in Oregon and five in Idaho. Those relationships boost your chances of being covered when out of Central Oregon -- but even Life Flight admits they won't keep you completely financially safe back at home.
"You are at risk of potentially being transported by either program," said Love, based on the location
Which means you need a membership with both. A year membership with AirLink goes for around $50 and for Life Flight it's around $60. If you're a member, you can decide which service you want to pick you up.
But that's only if emergency crews say you're mentally capable of doing so -- not always the case in a serious-injury crash or incident.